Out of the Blue
In which Dodger gets an earful and an eyeful
It was Dodger’s fullest intention to march right up to Michael’s front door, knock and demand that Miss Lelanea return to the camp, where he could perform his duties of keeping her safe from harm’s way. Or drag her back to the camp kicking and screaming if he had to. There, he would group the crew, explain how things were going to be from now on, and that would be that.
But the instant he heard the tinkle of her musical laughter, this dutiful intention melted into a jealous ire. Instead of barging in, he snuck up to the house. Instead of banging on the door, he peered over an open windowsill. Instead of demanding her return, he eavesdropped on their conversation.
And he didn’t like what he heard one bit.
“Thank you so much for inviting me,” Lelanea said.
“I wasn’t sure you would come,” Michael said. “Ched said you don’t call on anyone.”
“He’s right. But occasionally, I’ll make an exception.”
“I’m pleased to be your exception.”
The pair laughed, and under their shared joy, Dodger ground his teeth.
They were seated at a simple wooden table, the leftovers of some repast spread between them on scattered plates and cups. Michael offered her more to drink, which Lelanea refused, siting her already dizzy state. They fell into a moment of silence, one of those natural times that come with long conversations. In this silence, Dodger waited. He knew he should do something, anything, everything except what he was doing. Yet he couldn’t seem to help himself.
“I have a favor to ask of you,” Michael said.
“Then ask,” Lelanea said.
Michael stood and crossed the room, coming very close to the window beneath which Dodger hid. Thankfully, instead of looking down at the now-crouching Dodger, the native turned his eyes up to the sliver of moon hanging in the sky. “I’m afraid it’s a bit embarrassing.”
“After all we’ve talked about, now you’re shy?”
The big man blurted out, sort of all at once, “I’d like to see you in the natural.”
Dodger’s heart leaped into his throat. Was the man asking her what Dodger thought he was asking her? How dare he? Well, it was obvious that he didn’t know Miss Lelanea at all. No one talked to her like that.
“Michael Walking Bear,” Lelanea said. “Are you asking me what I think you’re asking me?”
Michael turned to her again with a nod. The lad was in for it now. There was no way the little lady would let a comment like that slide without repercussions. Dodger eased up again to watch the coming fight.
“You know I can’t do that,” Lelanea said with an understanding smile.
Dodger gave a small grunt of surprise. This he didn’t expect. There was no anger in her voice. No rage in her eyes. Just a soft smile and gentle denial.
“I’ll do it for you,” Michael said.
Instead of slapping the man silly, Lelanea sighed. “You don’t want that either.”
“I do. I really do. Please. It’s been so long since I’ve been that way with anyone-”
“Me too, but it’s not that easy. You know it’s not.”
Michael drew near to her again, standing over her, lowering his voice to a husky whisper as he asked, “Are you afraid?”
“Of course not.”
But even Dodger could hear the fear in her answer.
“Are you worried you might give in?” Michael asked. He ran his hands through her hair, sliding his fingers to the ends of her auburn locks. “You claim to be in control, but are you? Or are you afraid of those primal urges? That you’ll enjoy it too much and never want to go back?”
“Yes,” Lelanea whispered and shuddered under his touch.
A pair of matching growls rolled across the room, and the sound of it raised the hair on the back of Dodger’s neck. There was something base and feral in those growls. Something wild and untamed.
“Please, Lelanea,” Michael begged as he growled. “I want to enjoy you as we are both meant to be. To run with you under the moon. Roll in the grass. Maybe chase a deer or two. That’s all. I promise.”
Now, Dodger had been around the world and back again, and never in all of his days of seduction and mutual satisfaction with numerous partners had he ever heard anyone describe the act of making love with such colorful euphemisms. He knew it wasn’t the native blood controlling the lad’s tongue, because Dodger had experienced a tribal lover once before—the gorgeous daughter of a chieftain, with eyes of chestnut and skin so deep and dark that Dodger’s flesh looked fish-belly white when pressed against hers.
“I can’t,” Lelanea whispered. “I would love nothing more than to stay here and be … like that. But I can’t. I have responsibilities. Hieronymus needs me.”
Michael’s shoulders slumped. “I understand.” With his words, the tension of the moment—both sexual and feral—snapped, rebounded and relaxed.
“Thank you,” Lelanea said. “Both for the offer and for understanding.”
“You can’t blame me for trying,” Michael said.
“No. And I won’t.” Lelanea cleared her throat as she stood. “I should probably be getting back.”
“You can’t stay a bit longer?”
“No. If I know Dodger, he’s tearing the camp apart looking for me.”
“Then you two are together?”
Dodger clung to that question, between heartbeats, hungry for her answer.
“No,” she said, almost embarrassingly quickly, following this with her musical laugh. “My word, no. No, no, no, no.”
Beneath her plethora of denials, Dodger closed his eyes in defeat. It was a question he was hoping to ask her, and to hear the answer in this manner made him nauseated with shame. There was no use hanging back in the shadows. He was man enough to admit when he was beat. And the native certainly beat him to her heart.
Until she spoke again, saying something that lit his world with joy.
“At least not yet,” she said.
Michael chuckled. “So there is hope for love?”
“Love? I’m not in the market for love right now. But if I ever am, he’s at the top of my list.”
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